Shaik Trial Winds Down with Celebrity Witnesses' Testimony
Come Wednesday, the two men who daily battle it out over Schabir Shaik's guilt or innocence wake up with no need to engage in another day of trench warfare at Durban's High Court.
Lead prosecutor Billy Downer and defence counsel Francois van Zyl will climb out of their beds in their native Cape Town free from the thrust and parry that has dominated their lives since Shaik's fraud and corruption trial started on October 11.
The two, along with prosecutors Anton Steynberg and Santosh Manilal and defence attorney Reeves Parsee will rest the matter of whether the R1.2-million that Shaik gave to Deputy President Jacob Zuma amounted to the Nkobi Holdings boss buying the man who could become President.
It's been a trying and tiring court session for all concerned. Razor-sharp Judge Hilary Squires was brought out of retirement to hear the case. He's not shy to share his dry sense of humour with the courtroom.
Shaik looks exhausted. He sat through Ramadan hearing how he allegedly corrupted Zuma and tried to secure a R1-million bribe for his former comrade from the arms dealer Thomson (now Thint). Notwithstanding an outburst at a policeman over a parking bay, Shaik has warmed to the spotlight.
He's much more comfortable in his role of accused entrepreneur-felon than at the beginning of the trial. Then, his face was a mask and his body-language guarded and aggressive. Now he's quick to greet people or crack a joke.
Shaik sits behind a wall of files with a set of prayer beads and a herbal supplement next to him, following the proceedings over half-moon glasses.
But before the protagonists get to enjoy their Wednesday, a handful of the original 105 state witnesses will have to take the stand in the Durban High Court tomorrow and on Tuesday.
Zuma's former landlady, Shaik's former lawyer and officials of the SA Revenue Service (SARS) will be among the last witnesses to testify.
Tracy Brown, who owned the Mallinson Place house in which Zuma lived while in KwaZulu-Natal and for which Shaik paid the rent, will be the first person to give evidence tomorrow. She will be followed by SARS officials who will speak on the alternative charge of tax evasion that the Nkobi Holdings boss faces.
On Tuesday it will be the turn of Anand Moodley, Shaik's former attorney, who was allegedly party to some meetings between his client and Thomson.
The case will then be adjourned slightly sooner than anticipated. It was due to close only on Friday.
While the state will reserve its right to call more witnesses when the Durban High Court sits again on January 31 *1, they will be few in number. Because of Shaik's admission in his not-guilty plea to giving Zuma more than R1.2-million, many of the witnesses on the state's original list will no longer be called.
The judge's insistence that only evidence pertaining directly to alleged corruption involving Shaik, Zuma and Thomson official Alain Thetard may be led has trimmed the list further.
Prosecutors have so far not indicated exactly who will be called next year, but Richard Young, whose defence electronics company C²I² Systems was allegedly sidelined in the arms deal, is believed to be one. *2 A large chunk of next year's opening session will be dedicated to contesting the admissibility of evidence.
The defence will contest a large number of documents seized in simultaneous raids in Durban, France and Mauritius by the Scorpions. Much of the state's case has focused on these documents, which formed the basis for the 259-page forensic audit report prepared by auditors KPMG.
The defence will also have to prove the authenticity of the "revolving loan agreement" between Zuma and Shaik. Van Zyl introduced a copy of the document — the original of which is part of Parliament's confidential assets register — to try to prove that Zuma expected to pay the money back to Shaik. Thus far, Van Zyl says, Parliament has refused to release the original to the defence team.
This week's evidence by the state's celebrity witnesses, MPs Patricia de Lille and Gavin Woods and former Special Investigations Unit head Judge Willem Heath, focused mainly on the process of attempting to investigate the original allegations of corruption in the arms deal.
De Lille's evidence was restricted to her attempts to pass a resolution in Parliament about the alleged corruption and her subsequent passing to Heath of the dossier, compiled by "concerned ANC members".
Heath dealt very briefly with his involvement in the probe and the refusal by President Thabo Mbeki to sign a proclamation that would have allowed his Special Investigations Unit to be part of the probe into the deal.
The unit, Heath told the court, had powers that could have seen the contracts surrounding the arms deal set aside if corruption had been proved.
With acknowledgements to Paddy Harper and the Sunday Times.
*1 Maybe only 7 February 2005.